He has been dubbed a genius with vegetables.
His cooking may not be vegetarian per se, but Yotam Ottolenghi, the chef-owner of four London restaurants, definitely is a champion of putting vegetables front and center, in especially vibrant ways.
In this cookbook, of which I received a review copy, Ottolenghi continues his foray into dazzling veg-centric dishes such as “Steamed Eggplant with Sesame and Green Onion,” “Iranian Vegetable Stew with Dried Lime,” and “Grilled Banana Bread with Tahini and Honeycomb.”
At this time of year, I love roasting winter squashes. But I’m always looking for new ways to accent them. “Squash with Chile Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce” fit the bill perfectly.
Butternut squash is roasted with a sprinkle of cinnamon. But Ottolenghi steers the dish far out of the usual Thanksgiving realm by serving it with Sriracha-spiked yogurt, and an herbaceous sauce of cilantro and garlic that really gives the dish an unexpected sharpness.
It’s a dish that’s got holiday sweetness, but also a big kick of heat and savoriness. It’s a flavor combo you might never have thought of, but are sure to appreciate from the first forkful.
I used my usual trick of sticking the whole butternut squash in the microwave for a few minutes, just until it got soft enough to make sticking a chef’s knife into it a lot easier. The recipe calls for roasting the squash pieces skin side down. But you don’t have to fuss with that too much, as the pieces are rather irregular and will cook just fine no matter what side they are lying on.
Although the recipe calls for 2 1/2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds, I doubled that just because I like the added crunch.
This dish would make a fine Meatless Monday entree. Or serve it as a side dish alongside lamb or chicken.
If you’ve not yet jumped on the Ottolenghi bandwagon, this dish may just get you hopping on board.
Squash with Chile Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce
1 large butternut squash (3 pounds)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 ounces cilantro, leaves and stems (about 22 sprigs), plus extra leaves for garnish
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Scant 2 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (or more if you like)
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha or another savory chile sauce
Salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise, remove and discard the seeds, and then cut into wedges 3/4-inch wid and about 2 3/4-inches long, leaving the skin on. Place in a large bowl with the cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of pepper. Mix well so the the squash is evenly coated. Place the squash, skin side down if possible, on 2 baking sheets lined with foil and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until soft and starting to color on top. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
To make the herb paste, place the cilantro, garlic, the remaining 4 tablespoons oil, and a generous pinch of salt in the bowl of a small food processor, blitz to form a fine paste, and set aside.
Turn down the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Lay the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes. The outer skin will pop open and the seeds will become light and crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
When you are ready to serve, swirl together the yogurt and Sriracha sauce. Lay the squash wedges on a platter and drizzle the spicy yogurt sauce and then the herb paste over the top (you can also swirl the yogurt sauce and the herb paste together, if you like). Scatter the pumpkin seeds on top, followed by the extra cilantro leaves, and serve.
Adapted from “Plenty More” by Yotam Ottolenghi
Another Squash Recipe to Try: Butternut Squash with Balsamic and Chile Panko Crumbs by Jean Georges Vongerichten